The shift in Government advice from “Stay at Home” to “Stay Alert” is now literal in terms of home moves.  As from today home moves and viewings will be able to resume in England.

The Government has now set out plans to restart England’s housing market which has been in almost total suspense since the crisis began. Zoopla had estimated that nearly half a million buyers and renters had put their plans on hold. For sales this equated to over £80 billion worth of transactions.  The property markets in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain on full lockdown.

Both buyers and renters had previously been urged to delay moving whilst the “Stay at Home” advice was in place. This resulted in completions being delayed having a knock-on effect on estate agent revenues.

But to the relief of many that has now been reversed.  Completions may proceed and suspended transactions can be resurrected. Knight Frank has declared that the housing market is now open for business.

New guidance will allow estate agents to open to enable viewings to be carried out.  However Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that those must be carried out under social distancing and safety rules.  Agents are expecting specific guidance on how they will be able to undertake market appraisals and viewings in practice.

Agents hope that the relaxation will give buyers the confidence to engage with the housing market again.  Online viewings had already begun to increase – which were beginning to translate into enquiries.

So far many agents have been arranging for virtual viewings of properties – which has been partially successful with new build and vacant properties.  Developing this option further will provide another way of marketing for agents.

All this is good news for agencies who have been hit very hard by the current crisis with some larger chains reporting that up to 70% of staff had been furloughed.  As agencies start opening again employers will not just have to implement safety measures in accordance with new guidelines but also ensure that their staff are satisfied that following those guidelines will be sufficient to protect their health and they are not being faced with the decision to risk their health or risk their job.

A statement from the British Association of Removers made yesterday said it was in discussions with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to develop guidance on home moving.  This will lead to a pan-industry guide setting out best practice in accordance with MHCLG guidance. It is accepted that social distancing whilst moving is not easy and risk mitigation procedures will need to be put in place that will safeguard both removers and their clients.

Buying at a time when prices are low – and interest rates at a record low – makes perfect sense.   For the smart investor opportunities abound.

If you have any questions about this topic, please contact Rosie McCormick Paice or any member of the Residential Property team.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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